Plumbing With A Purpose

Plumbing With a Purpose

How To Remove Stuck Shut-Off Valves

Joann Gardner

A shut-off valve allows you to control the water supply to sinks and other plumbing fixtures. However, you may find they get stuck sometimes, which interferes with plumbing repairs, or needing to shut off water in an emergency. Shut-off valves often get clogged with debris and sediment, since they are not used much and left open. Follow these tips to loosen a stuck plumbing valve.

Prepare to Loosen the Valve

To loosen the valve, gather:

  • heavy work gloves
  • rags
  • wire brush
  • towel
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • small hammer
  • adjustable wrench pipe wrench 
  • shut off valve wrench
  • slip-joint pliers
  • hair dryer or propane torch (optional)
  • penetrating oil 

Turn off the main water supply to the house, if you need to shut off water immediately. The main water supply is commonly located near the water meter. 

Try to Turn the Packing Nut

Clean loose debris from around the valve stem. Apply calcium and lime rust remover, then clean. The deposits with the wire brush.

 Place a folded towel under the valve, and keep a wrench on it to hold it steady. Look for the packing nut under the handle or on the stem, wrap a towel around it, and attempt to turn it left with the wrench.

Loosen it slightly until there is slack in the valve. Attempt to loosen the valve by hand, then keep trying to loosen it in small increments.

If the valve still doesn't come loose, try tapping the stem with the wrench, then try turning the handle using the slip-join pliers. Another way to loosen the valve is to try a shut-off valve wrench. The oval indentation of the shut-off valve wrench should fit easily over the valve.

Apply Oil or Heat

If the valve still won't budge, add penetrating oil at the shaft under the packing nut to help break hidden debris and sediment. You may need to remove the handle with the screwdriver. Tap the nut lightly with a hammer to help circulate the oil. After ten minutes, try to loosen the valve again.

Alternately, apply heat as a last resort. Hold a hair dryer several inches from the stem and nut to melt stuck sediment. 

You may also use a propane torch on stubborn metal fixtures, but ensure nothing flammable is near it. Only use propane torches, if you feel comfortable with them, wear thick work gloves, and keep a fire extinguisher or a bucket of water close in case of fires. 

When you get the valve loose, rotate it back and forth to remove the grime. Periodically turn valves and check them for debris to prevent the problem. Contact a service, like Midwestern Plumbing Service, for more help.


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About Me
Plumbing With A Purpose

When was the last time you realized that you had a serious plumbing problem? About a month ago, I knew that I had to make some big changes, so I began talking with different plumbers about getting the job done. I told them that I wanted to replace the bathtub in the bathroom and the sink and faucet in the kitchen, and they took my requests in stride. Before I knew it, my entire home was updated and I felt great about the work. I wanted to start this blog to help other people to learn more about plumbing and repair.